Dalen Terry didn’t just open the door when opportunity knocked on Sunday night, he greeted it with a bottle of champagne.
While the rookie has made appearances in six of the Bulls’ first 11 games, it wasn’t until last night that he experienced a real rotational role.
Thanks, in part, to the absence of Zach LaVine, Coby White, and Andre Drummond, Terry saw himself clock a career-high 9:46 against the Toronto Raptors. His final stat line may not knock anybody’s Jordans off, but it did help represent exactly what the rookie can bring to the table.
Terry walked off the floor with 4 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block in a plus performance off the bench. He brought the same kind of energetic and versatile play that vaulted him up draft boards earlier summer. Even more important, it wasn’t hard to see where he can fit into how this Bulls team wants to play.
His first bucket of the night came just 29 seconds after he checked into the game. After watching DeMar DeRozan feed the ball inside to Javonte Green, Terry immediately cut to the rim for the wide-open layup. While it may have been an easy read, it represented the kind that this Bulls team is trying to build an identity around. The idea is to generate easy looks in a free-flowing and ball-popping offense, and Terry plays with the kind of active off-ball mindset to take advantage of such opportunities.
His other bucket may have been a lot more random, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t equally as encouraging. The 20-year-old found himself with the ball in his hands and the shot clock winding down. With veteran forward and former Bull Thaddeus Young guarding him, Terry made him dance off the dribble before landing a high-arching stepback-two.
The shot isn’t one we should expect to see Terry take often, but considering the questions around his jumper coming into Year 1, it made me raise an eyebrow.
Where Terry’s real short-term value rests, however, isn’t in the scoring column. Instead, it’s his mix of length and high motor at the wing position that can make an immediate difference on the defensive end. The first steal of Terry’s NBA career came after a blocked shot by Patrick Williams on Chris Boucher. The Raptors’ big man was able to get his hands back on the basketball, but Terry snuck from behind and simply bully-balled the rock away from him.
The steal ultimately set up Patrick Williams’ go-ahead dunk on the other end:
Terry’s second career block was just as exceptional. In what was a great example of his potential as an on-ball defender, Terry pushed his way right past the screen-setting Precious Achiuwa and recovered onto a driving OG Anunoby. His ability to get back on the Raptors’ forward allowed Vucevic to stay on the rolling Achiuwa, and Terry then finished the play by swatting the basketball right out of Anunoby’s hand. The lateral speed to stay in front of him was impressive, but his timing on the block was almost Alex-Caruso-like.
Combine this with several other strong defense possessions where he drew an offensive foul on Boucher, forced Scottie Barnes into a turnover, and simply put himself in a position to contest shots, and Terry felt like someone who made his presence felt every second he was on the floor. That’s why I’ve been harping since training camp that it’s only a matter of time before Terry is seeing more consistent playing time this season. The guy may not be a box score stuffer, but he makes sh*t happen when he’s on the floor. Javonte Green has already shown us the kind of role that can earn someone, and Terry might be next.